Last Friday the Morning News Tournament of Books declared The Good Lord Bird by James McBride the winner of TOB X. I added this to my to-read pile along with one other TOB competitor, Long Division by first time author Kiese Laymon whose writing judge Héctor Tobar described as, “a tour de force of colloquialisms and street slang put to intellectual good use,” before eliminating it from the competition in the first round. It lost to Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch a novel I am committed to never reading.
Two is not an impressive number of newly discovered reads and I didn’t go into the tournament having read a lot of the books. Just three and a half, At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri and about half of A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.
This actually reflects my sense of my 2013 reading year. I don’t have the stats but it wasn’t a year full of books I loved. Few of the books I liked made the TOB, only the Alarcón and Atkinson. And The Lowland is by far Lahiri’s weakest work. So I took a look at the TOB long list to see how that stacked up and found a lot of books I read or that were on my to-read list that didn’t make the cut. There were a lot.
The Flamethrowers (highly recommended)
Night Film (starts off really strong, but you can skim the last third)
Lotería (not recommended)
From my to-read list
We Need New Names
Claire of the Sea Light
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
The Maid’s Version